senior manager at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was charged in connection with the Justice Department's probe into excess emissions in diesel vehicles, according to documents unsealed Tuesday.
Emanuele Palma, a diesel drivability and emissions senior manager at FCA, was charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud, defraud the United States, violating the Clean Air Act and making false statements about the emissions system used on Fiat Chrysler's U.S. diesel vehicles, according to a grand jury indictment dated Sept. 18.
Palma was arrested by the FBI at his residence in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., without incident this morning, a Justice Department spokesman said.
Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit, confirmed Palma is now in custody and faces a 1 p.m. EDT court hearing.
Lawyers for Palma could not immediately be identified from the legal documents.
“We’re just learning about details of the matter," an FCA spokeswoman said by email. "We will continue to cooperate fully with authorities."
Palma’s name surfaced last year in a federal class-action lawsuit filed against FCA in San Francisco. Palma, while working for supplier VM Motori, wrote an email to colleagues in 2012 saying FCA “knows tEng is the only way to get to 30 mpg, so don’t worry about this topic,” the suit said. He was referring to software called “t_engine” that was capable of detecting whether a vehicle was undergoing emissions testing.
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Palma’s LinkedIn profile shows that he was VM Motori's manager for diesel engine calibration in Auburn Hills, Mich., at the time of the email and left the supplier in December 2014 to join FCA the next month. FCA bought a 50 percent stake in VM Motori in 2011, and purchased the remaining shares from General Motors in 2013.
Fiat Chrysler agreed to pay about $800 million to resolve civil claims from the Justice Department, state officials and customers alleging the company installed illegal software allowing more than 100,000 diesel-powered vehicles to dupe government emissions tests and then pollute beyond legal limits on the road. The settlement did not resolve any potential criminal liability, the Justice Department said when unveiling the agreement.
FCA at the time said the settlement did not change the company's "position that it did not engage in any deliberate scheme to install defeat devices to cheat emissions tests."
The renewed focus from U.S. prosecutors on FCA's alleged emissions violations follows cases against Volkswagen AG and a number of that automaker's current and former executives over use of illegal software to fool government diesel-emissions tests and mislead regulators and consumers.
Volkswagen and some of its executives pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the scandal, and the German automaker paid billions of dollars in penalties.
German prosecutors on Tuesday charged former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn and other company executives in the scandal. A Winterkorn lawyer said the former CEO rejected the claims. He was previously charged in the United States.
The indictment unsealed Tuesday says Palma and unnamed co-conspirators "purposefully calibrated the emissions control system" in Fiat Chrysler vehicles to produce lower emissions under federal test cycles and release higher amounts of nitrogen oxides during real world driving conditions. They concealed the those moves from U.S. environmental regulators, the indictment alleged.
The alleged fraud allowed Palma and the unnamed co-conspirators to obtain a favorable fuel economy rating that made FCA vehicles more attractive to potential customers, the indictment said. Prosecutors alleged the conduct resulted in deceptive claims to customers that the vehicles featured "clean EcoDiesel engines," the indictment said.
Le autorità americane hanno arrestato un manager FCA di nome Emanuele Palma riguardo le modifiche del 3.0 V6 tdi usato in modelli come il Grand Cherockee. Autonews non ha rilasciato molti dettagli. Solo nella giornata di oggi il top management di Vw è stato denunciato, Daimler è stata condannata a pagare 860 milioni di euro e un manager FCA è stato arrestato, tutti questi eventi sono legati in modo più o meno diretti al dieselgate.